Smartphones for couples - same OS?
October 8, 2013 8:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning on getting my very first smartphone pretty soon. One of the ways that people seem to use phones (a lot? sometimes?) involves syncing info between couples: schedules, grocery lists, to-do lists, tracking the other person's phone to tell that they're stuck in traffic, etc. Is this really useful? Does wanting this mean I should get an iPhone (like my husband) or can I do Android?

Background info:
My current idea is to wait till the Nexus5 comes out and do a StraightTalk plan; backup plan is a Galaxy S4 and either StraightTalk or subsidized by Verizon, my current carrier.
We can't have a family plan (there are reasons. that's not the problem I'm trying to solve here) so there's no push to have the same carrier. He uses iOS for everything - desktop, iPad, iPhone, etc. I have Windows at home and office. My job is not an on-call emailing-documents mobile-office kind of job; this would not be a professional smartphone, whereas his (kind of) is.
We are a very practical couple, more than a mushy-gooey one. When I say apps for couples, I'm not talking about intimacy, virtual hand-holding, LDR solutions, etc. - I mean easy information-sharing, calendar compatibility, etc.

Follow-up questions:
- Couples, do you really use these features a lot or is it one of those conceptually awesome things that doesn't get much use in the long run? What apps are really fantastic must-have?
- In general, how much barrier is there between iPhone and Android? i.e. if (versions of) an app are available in both iTunes and Play, does that pair communicate as well as if it were two of the iPhone app? or kind of? or not at all?
- I don't have a super-strong reason for preferring Android to iOS, it's just a gut reaction. One of the main reasons I haven't gotten a smartphone so far is resisting the $100 monthly bill, so the unlocked aspect of Nexus is appealing; and the iCult has always been a little eye-rolly to me, but I could get over that. Bottom line, I don't think there's anything that I need from Android that iOS doesn't do (is there??) I just want it... Would it be significantly easier if I just got an iPhone?
-- tack-on question, how compatible is an Android device with my existing extensive iTunes library?
posted by aimedwander to Technology (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My wife and I both have iPhones and we essentially never share any information of this kind. To the extent we do, it's via Google Calendar, which you could do just as well without having the same device.
posted by escabeche at 8:25 AM on October 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm a iPhone, she's a Galaxy S4. The one thing that sucks is iMessage and Hangouts don't talk to each other, and we ended up for a couple of months going way over out text message limits (we're using a third-party app now, but that's annoying as hell).
posted by General Malaise at 8:29 AM on October 8, 2013

Best answer: My husband and I sync calendars and grocery lists and bank information (we both enter transactions on phones, then reconciliation happens on the computer). We message each other for free using iMessage.

We both share photos via photo stream with the relatives who all have iPhones or iPads or macs.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:31 AM on October 8, 2013

My husband and I also rarely share stuff via iPhone, and most sharing is app based anyway. I think you could definitely work cross platforms. We more often share chargers (we only have one car charger), but while convenient, that's a small reason to have the same phone. Since you're new to smartphones, it might be nice if your husband could give you tips, but I'm sure you'll get up to speed fast enough on your own.
posted by Kriesa at 8:33 AM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

For a cheaper monthly bill consider Virgin Mobile (my choice. Awesome!) or Boost or other prepaid options. Both still give you Android and iPhone options.

There are a few things that make Messaging between iPhones a little easier than between iOS and Android. I have had MMS messages not deliver properly to my Android phone from my iPhone friends on multiple occasions, for example. But overall Android should be a perfectly viable option.

You don't mention your own level of technical prowess, you could very well being the person helping your husband with technical issues. But I frequently advise those who know they will be asking someone in their life technical questions to opt for an ecosystem that their technical guru will be comfortable with. Apply to your case as needed.
posted by Tallguy at 8:41 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The only things my spouse and I share are a Google calendar and Grocery IQ, and both of those have both iOS and Android apps which work across platforms so there's no need to be on the same device. We did use iMessage when we both had iPhones because that was the default setting but if you have a decent text plan that doesn't matter.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:41 AM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

2nding what leahwrenn said about texting. If y'all text at all (or, especially if you text a lot), both having iPhones and using iMessage is the way to go-- iMessage is free, texting is not.
posted by Flamingo at 8:42 AM on October 8, 2013

Best answer: We are a mixed family who uses Google calendar without issues. And the Our Grocery app which is cross platform. We have unlimited texting so no issues there. If you want an Android, you can easily make it work, especially since you're not used to both having iphones (that transition is a little annoying but still not insurmountable.)
posted by cessair at 8:42 AM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

if you use things that are web-based rather than app specific, you'd be fine.

plantoeat, mint, google etc.
posted by sio42 at 8:47 AM on October 8, 2013

There's also an app called Bump which works on both iOS and Android and allows you to share photos, contacts, etc. by bumping your phones together.

The shared charger thing is a mixed blessing. When we both had the same phone, "my" charger would always go missing, so it's actually nice to have different chargers.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:47 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

My wife and I are both using iPhones. We share calendars via Google (obviously not platform-dependent) and use an iOS-only grocery-list app (though there are obviously cross-platform ways around this). We also use Apple's own Reminders app a little. And we send messages a lot via iMessages, which is nice in that it lets you avoid chewing through your SMS allotment.

I do consider having a shared grocery-list app to be very handy—sometimes one of us will be updating the list while the other is at the store.

It may or may not be an issue in your family, but me being able to do tech support on my wife's phone is also a plus.
posted by adamrice at 8:48 AM on October 8, 2013

Best answer: We do groceries and calendars (yep, OurGroceries and GCal), and while we're both on Android, the apps we use also work on iPhone. We also used a baby care app to sync things likes medicine doses for sick children, and that synced across platforms too.

It is convenient, but before that we would just text each other grocery lists and whatnot.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:49 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, yeah, having different chargers also sucks.
posted by General Malaise at 8:49 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

The big thing for my wife and i is imessage: we probably send 200-300 texts/photos and the occasional video to each other, all free, every month, and never go over our "200 texts" plan.
posted by Oktober at 8:49 AM on October 8, 2013

Best answer: Oh, and it's trivially easy to move iTunes to Android. The first answer in my recent question has a good summary of your options.

And if you're allergic to high cell phone bills, can I recommend T-mobile's $30 per month plan? Unlimited data, unlimited text, 100 voice minutes (the voice is a deal-killer for some but it works for others who primarily text and email). I also like T-mobile because it natively uses wifi for phone and text when there is no cell signal available.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:51 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My husband and I use iMessage all day, every day, and not just for messaging, but also for photos & videos. For example, he'll send me to the hardware store for some obscure item and I text him a photo of it to make sure it's the right one. Or he'll be at REI trying on hats and send me a photo to ask if it looks okay. We do this kind of thing constantly. I'm also on the road a lot and he tracks my phone, which comes in handy in many situations. And just a few weeks ago we got into a non-shared charger situation when he bought a 5c and I still have a 4, and what a pain in the ass. Looking forward to getting my new phone this week so we can share again.
posted by HotToddy at 8:53 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

We are both iPhone users and have a sync'ed iCal for household stuff. It's very, very, handy and one of those things that we should have done a long time ago. Being able to superimpose household events onto my work calendar (also in iCal) is fabulously useful. Our oldest girl is now in on it and has been adding school events as well.

So, regardless of whether you're on the same smart phone or not, my message is: calendar sharing is awesome.
posted by jquinby at 8:53 AM on October 8, 2013

We both have different mobile OS. We use WhatsApp for free message between smartphone and DropBox to share file. There isn't really a need to share more.
posted by cl3m at 8:55 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My wife has an iPhone and I am an Android guy. We have had 0 problems being a mixed house. There are plenty of Google hangout apps for iPhone, so we just use that instead of texting each other — so there's no need to have both people on iMessage. Our shared calendars are all in Google Calendar so we're not locked into iCal. Our shared grocery list and other things are in Google Docs so we can both access and edit them. If we need to send pictures to each other, we email them instead of MMS.

Actually, being a mixed house has some advantages. We each have access to apps that the other does not, which can be helpful. If I need to FaceTime with somebody, I can borrow her phone. If she needs to do the same with someone who has an Android device (Hangout) she can borrow mine. I'm struggling to think of other examples because it seems like everything is on both Android and iOS by now, but sometimes its nice to have access to both in case only one can do what you want to do. So I would strongly recommend getting whatever you would be happy with and then just using things that work across platforms.
posted by Tehhund at 9:10 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

One benefit of having the same platform (at least with iPhones; I dunno how it is on Android) is that if you use the same Apple ID on the App Store, you only have to buy paid apps once to use them on both phones. We have separate IDs for everything else on our phones, but my wife uses my ID on the App Store.
posted by zsazsa at 9:12 AM on October 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

My boyfriend and I (now both on iPhone, previously split iPhone/Android) use Avocado to share all sorts of lists (grocery, to do, movies we want to watch some day, things to pack for our upcoming trip, etc.). You can also share calendars (though we use Google calendar), messages, and photos/videos, and access everything through the web as well as through the app.
posted by rebekah at 9:40 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Interesting... these are all very helpful!

I'm getting the impression that not every app works (well) cross-platform, but for every major category (calendars, messaging, banking, lists, etc) there's a cross-platform option that works well enough.

I had thought about the charger thing briefly, but that's probably not enough to make me change my mind... The texting thing hadn't occurred to me, since the plan I'm considering has unlimited texts, and he's always texting other iphone people so much I had forgotten his plan has a limit. That's good to know - but it looks like he can use Hangouts instead, I just have to make sure he'll do that.

zsazsa's App Store workaround is interesting, but so is Tehhund's point that it can be nice to have All the Apps.

Thanks for all the advice!! I think I'll go ahead with my Android plan, though it's good to know that I've at least thought about it first. In the short term anyway, my plan is "wait to see the Nexus 5" so I've got a couple of weeks (?) to change my mind. Please continue to post ideas and opinions!
posted by aimedwander at 9:55 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Re: iTunes, I recently switched from iPhone to Android (I got an HTC One and adore it, and found the out-of-the-box HTC version of Jellybean just as, if not more intuitive than iOS). Google Music just became available in the Netherlands, and it easily syncs my iTunes library to my phone. Better yet, I don't ever have to plug my phone in to anything to sync it. Every now and then I'll experience a little twinge of 'yeah, but Google's so evil,' but I have to say I greatly prefer the Google ecosystem to Apple.

I can't say we really use apps to share practical stuff. I'm much more techy than my partner, so any attempts to 'appify' our lives would be pretty one-sided. We do use Dropbox, Google Hangouts and Google Docs a lot, though.
posted by nerdfish at 10:03 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am the lone Android user in my house with my 3 kids using iPhones. I can tell you that they ignore me across platforms.

We share Google calendars and we have an unlimited family text plan (needed when each kid uses about 3,000 texts a month on top of their iMessages. Will likely all add the BBM app once that is squared away so we can save texts that way and have group texts. Ex wife still on Blackberry, but maybe that is why she is ex wife.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:04 AM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: iOS household. But we still share Google calendars because we've been doing that since before iOS existed.

Reasons we would not be happy with a mixed setup:

* We use a lot of Facetime when I'm traveling. Skype works cross-platform, but Facetime seems to perform better for us in bandwidth constrained situations. (We frequently try both, and a flaky airport connection seems to hurt Skype worse than Facetime. Anecdata, obviously ymmv.)

* We share one ID for the App Store, so we don't need to pay for two copies of various moderately expensive apps. But the most expensive shared app is a flight tracker for $10, so we're not talking big bucks here. (We also have a $180 app, Proloquo2Go, but that's a different story.)

Reasons we'd prefer a mixed setup:

* None that I'm aware of.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:57 AM on October 8, 2013

I want to amend my answer because RedOrGreen reminded me: my wife and I do take advantage of having a single App Store ID, which is very helpful indeed, because, frankly, BOTH of us need to have the games on the phone that our kids like.
posted by escabeche at 12:08 PM on October 8, 2013

Best answer: An aside, but recent benefit to StraightTalk - they recently allowed 4G data connections via At&T capable phones. They will still throttle if you go crazy, but that is a primo option at $45 per month.

I use Android, my wife has been iPhone until this last week, when she went to an S4. No real difference being back on the same platform, wasn't a hindrance to us before. Go with the phone you want.
posted by shinynewnick at 8:31 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

For messaging, Hangouts is available on iOS, while iMessage is only on Apple products.
posted by thadman at 9:37 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Word of warning: You need a Google+ account to use Hangouts on iOS.
posted by General Malaise at 1:58 PM on October 9, 2013

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